Kia ora: Pauanui

Need a cure for summertime blues? This patch of coast has the remedy year-round, writes Elisabeth Easther.

Andrew Matheson tows Cushla, 6, on her boogie board at Pauanui's beach. Photo / Christine Cornege
Andrew Matheson tows Cushla, 6, on her boogie board at Pauanui's beach. Photo / Christine Cornege

Where is it? On the east coast of Coromandel Peninsula, 151km from Auckland, 136km northeast of Hamilton or a short ferry ride from Tairua.

Origin of name: Wikipedia says it is Maori for "place with heavy rains", but local people and those of Tainui origin say it is simply "big paua", which is much nicer.

Population: 741 permanent, and climbing steeply in the summer months.

Town slogan: It's so pretty it doesn't need one.

The feeling: Pauanui is an interesting combination of lavish mansions and old-school baches.

Popular misconception: A lot of people think Pauanui is pretentious or full of rich people but, in reality, it's just a sweet, little coastal village.

Famous locals: The Hopper brothers - they were responsible for turning Pauanui into an ocean beach resort in 1967 and they've done so much for the community too. Plenty of famous people visit for holidays, like National Party MP Maurice Williamson, whose holiday home is right next door to that of Chinese businessman Donghua Liu.

Best website: pauanuionline.co.nz.

Most prominent industry: A recent survey found the biggest business is trades, as there's always lots of building going on. A clutch of Air New Zealand pilots live here too.

Flying high: A Yak52 aerobatic team is based in Pauanui and, if you're lucky, one day you might be lying in the water while a flying display goes on overhead.

Source of pride: The community. People who live here are down to earth and they look out for each other; they're a tight-knit bunch.

Town fiestas: Over summer there are loads of activities, from fairs to markets, surf carnivals to beauty pageants, there's even a photographic competition. The sandcastle building competition is hotly contested. Pop-up stalls pop up over summer and last year a wood-fired pizza emporium appeared on the jetty.

Here for a short time: Go to the beach; with surf on one side and estuary paddling on the other, Pauanui is one of the best beaches on the coast.

Best place to take the kids: Mini golf is ace and Nippers, run throughout summer by the surf club, is cool. Then, of course, there's outside full stop, with loads of tree swings.

Best playgrounds: There are loads of playgrounds and two have flying foxes, one at Gallagher Park and the other at Given Grove. There's a skate park at the Shepperd Ave end of the airfield.

Best walks: The Flat Rock Cave Bay Walk is an easy stroll, or wander the boardwalk up Tairua River to the harbour. Eventually it'll link all the way to Tairua Coastal Walkway. Hike up Mt Pauanui, at the southern end of the beach, where walkers are rewarded with stunning views of the ocean and ranges. Puketui Valley is a short loop walk rich in goldmining history and glowworms.

Best view: From the top of Mt Pauanui gaze out to The Pinnacles - it's a challenging walk but oh so peaceful when you're up there. Or be lazy and take a scenic flight.

Little adventure: Take the ferry to Tairua and climb Mt Paku, another excellent vista.

Best swim: From one end of the beach to the other, the swimming is super, the surf club is a safe place to enjoy the waves and the harbour is tops for wading with toddlers.

Stop to shop: Mrs Browns Homeware and Gifts is perfect for buying presents if you've been staying with friends and want to show your appreciation.

Tops for coffee: It's The Chocolate Pretzel or head out to Puka Park and catch the morning sun as you sit on the restaurant's deck and enjoy the beautiful views.

Best bakery: Pauanui Bakery's pies are perfect post-surf, ditto their heavenly custard twists.

Best food: Puka Park for ambience and roaring fires in the cooler months. They've just refurbished and their signature seafood platter is rightly popular, as is their venison. (They were finalists in the Lamb and Beef Awards this year). For a beach bistro, The Lime Room is delicious with lots of gluten-free and allergy-friendly food. In summer the wood-fired pizza guy on the jetty is fabulous too.

Wet your whistle: The Lime Room is family-friendly and The Pauanui Club is welcoming to visitors; roast nights are popular.

Best adventures: Kayaking, fishing charters, surfing and really anything to do with the sea. And Hot Water Beach makes a fabulous day trip - as does the marine reserve in Hahei.

More fun and games: There are 16 tennis courts in four locations and three golf courses too. Or try diving, water skiing or wake boarding.

Best kept secret: Forgo your sleep-in to watch the sun rise from the beach or, in the evening, grab a pizza and visit the estuary to watch the sun set over the ranges. Heavenly.

Wildlife: The birdlife is astonishing, and you might also see dolphins and orca playing in Tairua Harbour. There are a few sharks lurking too, but I am told they're all nice, friendly ones.

Locals say: Slow down, relax, you're not in Auckland now.

Visitors say: Shhh, I'm trying to snooze.

Thanks to Mareile from Puka Park for spilling the beans.

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